Facebook can’t block nearly 400 search warrants seeking users’ postings for a criminal fraud investigation, ruled an New York appeals court, the Associated Press reports. The judges said they understand the social networking site’s unease about prosecutors’ extensive request. The Supreme Court Appellate Division ruling won’t put any new information in prosecutors’ hands. Facebook had lost earlier rulings and already turned the data over. The case has been closely watched by social media companies, civil libertarians and prosecutors.
“We continue to believe that overly broad search warrants — granting the government the ability to keep hundreds of people’s account information indefinitely — are unconstitutional and raise important concerns about the privacy of people’s online information,” said the California-based Facebook. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office said the 381 warrants helped build a massive disabilities benefits fraud case against police and fire department retirees, and 108 people have pleaded guilty. “In many cases, evidence on their Facebook accounts directly contradicted the lies the defendants told to the Social Security Administration” about being too psychologically devastated to work, said district attorney’s spokeswoman Joan Vollero. Some defendants disclosed on Facebook that they flew helicopters, traveled overseas, did martial arts and otherwise led active, full lives.